®f the Tai la1*18-?611 °f ASsam,~As already
d these languages are all closely related to each other. Indeed, they should not be
considered as languages, but as members of the group of Northern Shan dialects. Of
these dialects Khamti and the Northern Shan of Burma may be considered as the
most widely separated, though, in truth, even in this case, the distance between them
is not oreat Ahom is, of course, on an altogether different level. It belongs to a
different layer of speech, and may be considered to stand in the position of parent to all
the others. Ve therefore put it for the present out of consideration.
Khamtl is most widely different from Burmese Shan because the Khamtls left
Siting Kang a century and a half ago, and their language has had time to develop on
independent lines. It has, too, retained archaic forms which have disappeared in its
Hung Man brother. Eor instance, in the alphabet, it still has the form for the letter
lea which-was originally borrowed from the Burmese, 0es.,oo» while in Mung Mau Shan,
the letter has changed its form to JD m
The other modern Assam Tai languages have come into their new home at much
later times. They have thus retained more or less of the peculiarities of the language of
their original habitat, though all have come to some degree under the influence of the
more powerful Khamti.
Tairong is the one which is most like Khamti. It is in fact almost the same dialect,
the differences being hardly even tribal peculiarities. We have seen how nearly all the
Tairongs lost their own language during their captivity among the Singphos, and the few
that speak a Tai language at the present day have not improbably learnt it again from
their Khamti relations, and have slightly modified it under the influence of dim tradi-
tions of their old form of speech.
The next nearest is Nora. It uses the Khamti alphabet, but has one letter, a, which
has been lost by Khamti, but which existed in Ahom, and still also survives in Shan and
Aitonia. Its vocabulary has more words which are peculiar to Shan than Tairong has,
and its grammar often uses both Khamti and Shan forms (when they differ) indifferently,
Thus, the Dative and the Ablative cases may be made after either the Khamti or the
Shan fashion and so for the Future tense of verbs.
Aitonia is the furthest removed from Khamti and the nearest to Shan. It still uses
the Shan alphabet, although in the case of one or two letters it has adopted Khamti
forms. It uses Shan grammatical forms freely, but also does not disdain the correspond-
ing Khamti ones.
The number of people reported to speak these modern Tai dialects in Assam is as
Where spoken. 1
No. of speakers
Ptakial . . ...
Lakhimpiir » t . .
Aitonia ... ...
Sibsagar and Naga Hills ....